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Message from the president

Judy Morgitan, DPS presidentMost would agree with me when I say we are facing many challenges this year. Be assured that our PSEA Board of Directors and staff continue to work tirelessly on issues impacting our professional and personal lives. Please respond to critical email alerts when you get them, and make a personal commitment to meet with your legislators sooner than later in 2017. You are the experts in your professional fields. Let your legislators know how best they can represent you.

Recently, the DPS Board experienced a change in our PSEA staff consultants. Erika Brunelle will now focus all of her energy and expertise in PSEA's Government Relations Division. On behalf of all DPS members, thank you, Erika! We are grateful for your dedication to our DPS and School Nurse Section boards. You have been our advocate and adviser for the past three years. We appreciate you in so many ways. Now, all PSEA members will benefit from your outstanding work ethic and continued commitment to our GR Division.

Many of you are also aware that Beth Anne Bahn, director of the School Health Division in the Department of Health, retired in January. Beth Anne served on our DPS and SNS boards as the Department of Health liaison. On behalf of our certified school dental hygienists and school nurses, thank you, Beth Anne!

We now welcome Jennifer Wert as our new PSEA staff consultant and Susan Templin as our new Department of Health liaison to both the DPS and SNS boards.

I wish everyone a very healthy and productive 2017!

? Judy Morgitan, DPS president, certified school nurse in Perkiomen Valley School District


What does repealing the ACA mean for PA families and children?

Kaiser Family Foundation - Medicaid and CHIP in PA
Source: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Having health insurance is the single most important factor impacting children's access to health care. Children who have health insurance are more likely to be immunized, receive regular check-ups, and get prompt treatment for common childhood ailments, such as ear infections and asthma. Uninsured children are less likely to see a doctor on a regular basis and when symptoms develop. Overall, an uninsured child is more likely than an insured child to be hospitalized for a preventable problem.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has improved the quality of life for Pennsylvania families by expanding medical coverage in the state, reducing the rate of uninsured kids to only 4 percent ? the lowest rate in years.

What is at stake for our most vulnerable citizens if the ACA is repealed without a high-quality replacement plan immediately available? Currently, the ACA:

  • protects children with pre-existing medical conditions;
  • prohibits insurers from establishing lifetime limits on coverage or limiting or denying children's coverage;
  • allows young adults to remain on a parent's health insurance plan until age 26;
  • enables youth who "age out" of the foster care system at 18 to continue to receive coverage through Medicaid until age 26; and
  • streamlines the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid eligibility determination and renewal processes.

If the ACA is repealed, the consequences could include:

  • more children denied health coverage or increased charges for services;
  • families charged co-pays for preventive medical services, such as immunizations, hearing tests, and many behavioral health assessments used to identify issues like autism or depression;
  • declines in Medicaid coverage or new financial barriers to care;
  • limited health care funding for children and adults (the majority of Medicaid enrollees) along with the elderly and those with disabilities (populations that represent the majority of Medicaid spending);
  • reduced funding for nursing homes and community-based long-term care (Medicaid is the largest payer of these services);
  • reductions in federal revenues to states and Medicaid revenues for safety-net providers; and
  • a particular risk for children with special health care needs who rely on Medicaid for its broad scope of medical and long-term care benefits that are typically not covered by private insurance.

Children who have access to quality physical and behavioral health care that meets their needs have better school attendance and academic performance. Begin to brainstorm on community resources and partnerships and explore the implications in our schools as the political debate around repealing the ACA unfolds.

See the Kaiser Family Foundation's "Medicaid in Pennsylvania" Fact Sheet to learn more.

How alcohol affects the brain

How alcohol affects the brain

School counselors and other educators play a critical role when it comes to helping students navigate both their academic and social growth. This includes understanding the impact of underage drinking.

A new project called "How Alcohol Affects the Brain" provides videos and resources designed to teach kids about the physical impact on their brains and bodies that comes with underage drinking.

Take advantage of these great resources for educators. There are also materials for students and parents.

Just go to the "How Alcohol Affects the Brain" web page to learn more.


Helping students with the emotional impacts of the election

Children

Last year's presidential campaign took an emotional toll on many students and families, especially those who feel marginalized or powerless. Many students were regularly exposed to campaign rhetoric that may have created stress or other concerns. Students may now be experiencing a variety of emotions, ranging from excitement to anxiety to despair.

School counselors can help by providing ongoing support to students. Find tips from the American School Counselors Association to help you provide the support your students need.


Policymakers make changes to PA?s school attendance law

Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation in November overhauling Pennsylvania's truancy law. The law shifts the focus away from punitive measures to a more student-focused approach so that all involved can better understand why a student is missing school.

When a student has three unexcused absences in a school year, the school may offer to hold an attendance improvement conference to discuss the truancy problem with parents and the student. Should unexcused absences persist, the school must hold an attendance improvement conference and put an attendance improvement plan in place. Neither the parents nor the student are legally required to participate in the conference, but a school must document the results in a written plan.

A student with six or more unexcused absences is defined as "habitually truant." The school must either refer a child under 15 years to a school-based or community-based attendance improvement program or the county children and youth agency. Schools may also choose to file a citation against the parents. For students who are age 15 and over, the school must either refer the child to a school-based or community-based attendance improvement program or file a citation against the student or the parents.

The law, among other things, also:

  • prohibits schools from excluding a student from the regular education classroom as discipline for truant behavior;
  • gives the courts more discretion to impose appropriate penalties in individual cases;
  • increases fines; and
  • reduces jail time from a maximum of five days to three days.

For a more detailed explanation of the law, read this fact sheet from the Education Law Center.


School dental hygienist certification guidelines updated

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has updated the certification guidelines for dental hygienists working in schools. The department will accept the following for certification as an "Educational Specialist - Dental Hygienist":

1. Bachelor's degree.

2. Valid Pennsylvania Department of State-issued dental hygienist license.

3. Good moral character and U.S. citizenship.

4. Transcripted coursework from an accredited college/university to meet the competencies stated in the guidelines (Specialist-Dental Hygienist K-12):

  • Methods of health/health care instruction;
  • Organization, administration, law, and operation of public schools; and
  • Adolescent and child development.

5. A supervised practicum (at least 60 hours) serving as a school dental hygienist. The practicum may be met by working on a Pennsylvania public long-term emergency certificate under a certified education specialist - school dental hygienist. If the LEA does not have a licensed hygienist, the principal may supervise, and a certified hygienist from a neighboring district may mentor the candidate. The Pennsylvania Department of Education has a list of certified hygienists willing to mentor.

Go to the commonwealth's Dental Hygiene Services Program website to learn more, including how to apply for the Educational Specialist certificate.


Licensed school staff must complete training on child abuse reporting

Licensed school staff must complete two hours of continuing education on child abuse recognition and reporting. The training must be conducted by an approved provider, and that provider must notify the commonwealth's Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs that the course was completed.

Go to the bureau's website to find approved continuing education providers.


Hepatitis B vaccinations available for non-licensed employees

Act 86 of 2016 permits identified non-licensed school employees to perform diabetes care and management, including administering glucagon and insulin to students with diabetes.

The PSEA Legal Division prepared an advisory for local leaders, school nurses, and other members regarding the new law.

Recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued guidelines indicating that non-licensed school personnel who administer injections to students can obtain the Hepatitis B immunization series from their employer.

School employees who have been trained to administer epinephrine auto-injectors, insulin, or glucagon are considered to have occupational exposure and, therefore, must be offered the Hepatitis B vaccination series by their employer. Within 10 working days of assignment, the employer shall make the Hepatitis B vaccination series available to all employees who have occupational exposure. Such vaccinations shall be:

  • at no cost to the employee;
  • done at a reasonable time and place during working hours;
  • supervised by a licensed physician/licensed health care professional; and
  • according to the latest recommendations of the U.S. Public Health Service.

Employees who refuse the vaccination must sign a declination form but can later decide to receive the vaccination under the same conditions.

Employees shall be offered booster doses, if recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service.

Please review the Hepatitis B - Guidelines on Bloodborne Pathogens for the Public Sector from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. These guidelines apply to all personnel (licensed and non-licensed) administering injections.


Save the date: PSEA?s DPS Conference will be Aug. 2-3

Intersection

Mark your calendars. This year's PSEA DPS Conference will be Aug. 2-3, 2017, at the Ramada Conference Center in State College. This year's theme will focus on "The Intersection of Learning and Success." Education consultant and motivational speaker Thom Stecher will deliver the keynote.

Come for the informative sessions, and stay for the opportunity to network with other educational specialists from across the state.

Check out our conference flier for more details. We'll also have more info about the conference in the spring edition of The Specialist.

We hope to see you in State College on Aug. 2 and 3.


400 N. 3rd Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101

This content is intended for PSEA members and their immediate families.


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